Texas Rangers News and Notes

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, September 1st, 2018

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BY DIC HUMPHREY
DIC.HUMPHREY@YAHOO.COM

ARLINGTON, Texas – For all intents and purposes, in-season
trading is over.  Trades were still possible and did happen in
August after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.  The process was
complicated because teams had to deal with waivers to completed
trades.  Those same trades can be made in September, but the
difference is that players acquired after August 31 are not eligible
to participate in the playoffs.  That pretty well takes away the
motivation to make trades.
The Rangers season of development will be all out in September.
The rosters expand September 1, such that Texas will have the freedom
to look at their top minor league prospects with a view to next year.
The Rangers have 10 games remaining with contenders Oakland and
Seattle in which they’ll need to put forth their best starting lineup.
That leaves at least 18 games in which they can play lineups to take a
look at players for next year’s team.
On the field, the Rangers have actually played pretty good.  They
go into the weekend series with Minnesota with a 12-13 record for
August.  The offense has jelled since the All-Star break, with many of
the young players leading the charge.  Joey Gallo leads the team
with 34 home runs and 78 RBIs.  Jurickson Profar is second in RBIs
with 65.  Gallo is 24 and Profar is 25 years old.
Rougned Odor has turned around his season in epic proportions.
He’s become more selective at the plate to take more walks and
materially increase his on-base percentage.  On the field, the
unthinkable has become a reality.  Odor is indeed a serious candidate
to win the Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence at his position.
He’s 24.
Nomar Mazara is third on the team with 61 RBIs.  Isiah
Kiner-Falefa and Ronald Guzman have been material contributors too.
Willie Calhoun, who will be back in September probably for good, is
expected to be a significant offensive contributor. All four are 23.
In short, the foundation for a marvelous offensive team in coming
years seems to be in place.
It is a lineup that is too left-handed.  Shin-Soo Choo, Odor,
Gallo, Mazara, Guzman and Calhoun all hit left-handed.  Left-handed
power hitters are a desirable commodity, so one of those players is
likely to be traded this winter.
Pitching is the problem.  The Rangers have the worst starting
pitchers ERA in the American League.  This team might have been
competitive if the starting pitching had been decent.  At this point,
the Rangers have just one starting pitcher for next year’s rotation –
Mike Minor.  He’s been the Rangers’ best starter at 7-10, 4.33.
After Minor, there’s no pitcher that would be in the rotation of any
other team in baseball.  Martin Perez (2-6, 6.95) was moved to the
bullpen this week and informed that the Rangers will likely not pick
up the 2019 team option in his contract.  Matt Moore was moved to the
bullpen earlier in the season after being terrible as a starter.
Yovani Gallardo has a decent record at 7-3, but he hasn’t pitched
well.  His ERA is over 6.00, and the good won-loss record is largely
due to tremendous run support.  The rest of the rotation – Drew
Hutchison, Ariel Jurado and Bartolo Colon – is a train wreck.
As for help from the minor league system, Jurado is in Arlington
now, and isn’t doing well at 2-4, 6.59 in seven starts.  Yohander
Mendez is the other pitcher in the system that is close to being Major
League ready.  He’s expected to join the team next week when the
rosters expand and get an extended look in September, but he hasn’t
pitched well in the minor leagues.
Undoubtedly, the rotation will be filled out this winter in the free
agent and/or trade market.  That was last year’s approach to putting
together a starting rotation.  The question is then whether the
Rangers will commit to one or more of the better starting pitchers
available this winter in free agency.
Even with the trades of Jesse Chavez, Jake Diekman and Keone
Kela, the bullpen is good.  Jose Leclerc has taken over the closer
role after Kela departed, and he’s been magnificent.  Seven for seven
in save opportunities.
The question then is the starting rotation.  If the rotation
falls somewhat into place, the Rangers might get into the Wild Card
hunt in 2019.  More likely though, the Rangers won’t be a serious
post-season threat until at least 2020, if not later.  This
organization under Jon Daniels’ leadership for more than a decade has
not been able to draft and develop starting pitchers, and the
turnaround won’t be coming until that happens.
THE 2019 SCHEDULE
The 2019 schedule was published last week, a month or so earlier
than usual.  The season opens at home against the Cubs, only the
second time in Ranger history to open with an inter-league game.
The home opener is scheduled for Thursday, March 28, the earliest
start date in Ranger history.  It will be Chicago’s first appearance
in Arlington since 2010, and perhaps the Rangers will face Yu Darvish
in the series.
Other interleague series in Arlington include Arizona, St. Louis
and Pittsburgh.  It will be the Cardinals’ first appearance in
Arlington since the 2011 World Series.  The interleague road games
will be played against Arizona, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
With the unbalanced schedule whereby teams play each of their
four division foes 19 times, the schedule usually has a healthy dose
of divisional play in the beginning of the season, the middle of the
season and at the end of the season.  Certainly with five team
divisions, only four teams can be playing divisional opponents at any
point in time, but the 2019 schedule is strange.  Texas has five
September series with teams that are not in their division.  They
finish 2019 with seven home games against the Red Sox and Yankees.
They will be the last seven regular season games played at Globe Life
Ballpark, so fans will definitely have attractive matchups to close
down the stadium.
Texas will also be home for the Fourth of July, and the opponent
will be the Los Angeles Angels.
THE PENNANT RACES AT A GLANCE
When we last wrote about the pennant races, there wasn’t much
drama in the American League and there was a lot of drama in the
National League.  As Labor Day approaches, not much has changed.  The
five teams that would have been in the A.L. playoffs per the
mid-season standings were Houston, Cleveland and Boston as division
champions going from West to East, and the Yankees as the number one
Wild Card hosting Seattle as the number two Wild Card.  The only
difference now is that Oakland has replaced Seattle.
However, the Yankees can still catch Boston for the East Division
championship.  It’s not likely, but the Yankees go into the weekend
trailing by eight games.  Cleveland will have a difficult time
losing the Central Division championship, though they likely will
enter the playoffs with the fifth best record among the five A.L.
playoff teams.  Oakland isn’t to be counted out for taking the West
Division championship from Houston.  They are within 2.5 games of the
Astros going into Labor Day weekend.  The Mariners have slipped to
seven games back in the division race and 4.5 games out of the second
Wild Card spot.  They haven’t been playing well though and don’t look
the part of a playoff team.  Houston is still the favorite to win
the division, but the Astros have looked vulnerable enough to lose the
division championship.
In the National League, there are eight teams either in first
place or five games or less out of first place.  In the East, upstarts
Philadelphia and Atlanta have all but eliminated the favored
Washington Nationals for the championship.  The Braves have actually
opened up a little distance from the Phillies leading by three games.
The schedule makers could not have done better.  These two teams play
each other in seven of the last 10 games of the season.
Washington is still on the fringe, trailing by 7.5 games (eight in the
loss column).  They haven’t shown the wherewithal to put together a
winning streak to take a playoff berth, and they have traded two solid
players in August.  They look dead, but they aren’t just yet.
In the Central Division, the Cubs have taken the lead.
Surprisingly, the Cardinals have pulled into second place.  They
looked dead in the water when manager Mike Matheny was fired on July
14.  Coach Mike Schildt was promoted to interim manager, and this
week, “interim” was removed from his title.  The team has played well
going 28-13 since Schildt took over, and they have looked good doing
it.  The defense especially has been materially improved.  The
Cardinals now lead the Wild Card race and Milwaukee is just ahead of
the Rockies and Dodgers for the second Wild Card berth.  Winning the
division is not out of the question for St. Louis or Milwaukee, and
three of the five playoff berths could be going to teams in this
division.
The National League West has the most entertaining race.  Three
teams are in position to win the division: Arizona, Colorado and Los
Angeles.  The division lead seems to bounce between the three on a
daily basis.  They go into the weekend with Arizona leading with 60
losses, Colorado in second place with 61 losses, and Los Angeles in
third place with 62 losses.  This division championship is totally up
for grabs.  It’s still possible that all three of these teams make the
playoffs as they did last year, but it’s also very possible that only
the division champion goes.

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